For telecom companies, Southeast Asia is one of the fastest growing markets with a population of 583M only across Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. In 2021, the bloc had 40M new internet users, bringing the internet penetration in the region to 75% with a total of 440M internet users.

Source: Google, Temasek and Bain, e-Conomy SEA 2019 and 2020; Statista for 2021.

The pandemic has clearly accelerated the digitalisation and added new ways of life in the region. During the lockdowns more people have been using digital services like social media, food delivery, healthtech, and edtech. According to Statista, the internet economy in Southeast Asia was valued at 174 billion U.S. dollars last year, and is expected to reach 363 billion U.S. dollars by 2025.

5G updates in the region

  • Vietnam’s major telecom operators – Viettel, Vinaphone, and MobiFone – agreed to share 5G infrastructure in an effort to streamline capital investment. Last September, Viettel reported 5G data transmission speeds of more than 4.7Gb per second, making them one of the fastest 5G telecom networks in Asia.
  • Philippines showed that it had the greatest improvement in download speed with 5G averaging 140.6 Mbps and being 9.8 times faster than 4G.  
  • Malaysia introduced 5G as a Single Wholesale Network (SWN) and established a new entity ​​under the Ministry of Finance called Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) in March 2021. We did an analysis of the situation in Malaysia, which you can read here.
  • Thailand's future growth is likely to remain solid as they already have strong mobile phone penetration and robust fixed broadband among households. It’s forecasted that 5G mobile subscribers will represent nearly 45% of all subscriptions by 2026. 
  • India has postponed the 5G auction to the second half of 2022. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) gave companies and interested parties until last week (February 15) to provide additional submissions and propose methods to value spectrum.

India is the world’s second largest telecommunications market with about 1.2 billion internet subscribers and is expected to have a digital economy of $1 tn by 2025. Within five years, the active internet users will increase by 45% and reach 900 million new internet users, creating opportunities for new business.

Multiple bands are being considered for 5G deployment

Source: 5G in ASEAN. A.T. Kearney analysis.

In 2021, some telecom companies in the region announced that they are joining forces so that they can enlarge their market and improve their profitability. One example of these merging deals was announced last year in Thailand with True and Dtac, which combined would control more than half of the country’s total mobile market at about 95.3 million subscribers. It is expected that the shareholders, regulatory agencies and authorities make a decision later on this year. 

These merging deals have faced criticisms from analysts, since some nations in the region might take a step back by adopting a monopoly or duopoly model for their 5G deployments. One of the strongest worries in the market is that operators won’t have the same incentive to lower their prices or improve their network quality without competition.


The pandemic has accelerated the digitalisation of many services in Southeast Asia. In 2022, 5G will help Southeast Asia to continue with its growth as a global tech hub with companies pushing for innovation, demanding more efficient networks in order to deliver basic digital services to their populations.

Some of the challenges that governments, regulatory agencies and companies are facing at the moment are: how to ensure competition and fair prices for the consumers; how to offer good coverage in large and densely populated cities as well as in the rural areas; how to improve the average download speeds with the current technology and investments; and how to guarantee the privacy and security of the users data.

How can Omnitele help?

Omnitele helps operators, regulators and companies with 3G, 4G and 5G predictions of the future user experience with the forecasted traffic and terminal development by using Omnitele PRIMEA. Omnitele PRIMEA is our AI solution that can accurately model the most effective RAN technology rollout strategy, answering exactly what to build, where to build, and when to build. It also predicts how the alternative technology deployments will impact on the sector level user experience at a selected future point of time.

This article has been written with the collaboration of Vikas Sharma.

Author: Viri Stålhammar

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